The time has come where I actually have to start doing the whole “studying” part of study abroad. These last two weeks were my first weeks of classes and it was definitely a lesson into patience and going with the flow. It is definitely a big change from feeling like you are on vacation and exploring to having classes everyday, but I appreciated the normalcy of classes and a set schedule.
While I am here, I am taking classes at Université Paul-Valéry which is a local University in Montpellier (the picture with this post is a mural at Paul Valery). All of my classes are taught in French but most of them are specifically for international students so they are taught at a much slower pace (which I definitely need). Its also nice to be able to meet some people outside of my program! The classes I am taking for international students include French Grammar and Methodology, French Phonetics, French Conversation, and an Internship class. These classes aren’t too difficult and they are definitely helping me with my French! For the internship course we have a class to talk about French work life and culture and then I will be in a French primary school classroom twice a week for the internship part. I really have no idea what I will be doing in the school, but I start the internship tomorrow so stay tuned for more updates on that!
The last classes I am taking are called “integrated” classes and are not specifically for international students. My program allows us to take any regular class we want at the University alongside the French students. I chose to take a film class that has two parts: a lecture section about analyzing films and a discussion session specifically on the topic of the cinema of animation (think Walt Disney and cartoons). Basically we are thrown into a normal University class where the professor does not even know they have international students/ non-native French speakers in the classroom and we are told good luck! Well, maybe it’s not that dramatic although it sure seemed like it the first week. Many things went differently than expected, especially in the first week, and looking back at it just makes me laugh at how unprepared I was for true French classes. Here are some examples…
- I showed up to one of my classes at the University 5 hours early because my advisor had written the times wrong on my schedule. In reality it was also probably my fault that I didn’t check the times but hey at least I had TONS of time to explore the University campus!
- My first integrated class was the lecture on analyzing films and it was quite the experience. First, I couldn’t find my classroom because it changed rooms at the last minute and I wasn’t on the email list so I had no way of knowing. I basically walked around the entire campus to all of the lecture rooms to eventually find the class. After finding the class and feeling somewhat accomplished, I sit down in the second row of this lecture hall and the professor just starts talking about films in French without any introduction. I am pretty sure I understood maybe 30% of that first class and part of what I understood was the last 10 minutes when we watched a clip of Star Wars in English with French subtitles.
- I had my second integrated class on Thursday night and by then I really thought I had the French University system figured out… boy was I wrong. I showed up to my classroom and figured out I was in the right place because my class was on the schedule on the door, but the door was locked. The weird part was that I was the first to arrive, maybe 10 minutes because the class was supposed to start, and only one other girl came in those 10 minutes. After trying to talk to her in what was probably a horrible accent and many mis-conjugated verbs, we decided we were in the right place but that there should be more people there. At this point it is maybe 5 minutes after the class was supposed to have started and we were so confused as to where everyone was. The girl decides to go outside the building to ask around if anyone knew anything about the class. A few minutes later she comes back inside to tell me that she had found out the class was cancelled. Not just for the day though- for the entire semester. Apparently the professor just decided he didn’t want to teach the class (another crazy part of the French school system I guess).
- After finding a different discussion section that worked with my schedule, I settled on the cinema of animation. While I found this classroom without any problems and the professor actually showed up… none of the other students did. Ok that’s an exaggeration but there were only 12 of us in the class which I thought was going to have at least 30. The class starts with the professor calling role and me having to try to explain why I am not on the roster and how to spell “Emily” (because apparently its hard in French??). Then the prof proceeds to call on me multiple times during the class period to comment on the American directors or English words she is explaining, very few of which I knew of before or knew how to explain in French. Finally, she proceeds to tell the class that the final project and most of our grade is based on a presentation to the class about a topic given from a list. I was thinking well a presentation can’t be that bad right! I come to find out that the presentation has to be 1 hour long and is basically us teaching the class about a subject (which for me is something about Wallace and Gromit). So basically I have to stand in front of the class for ONE HOUR talking in French about a cartoon… I am not even sure I could do that in English so stay tuned for what I am sure will be a wild ride.
After a somewhat crazy first two weeks figuring out classes, transportation, and a new normal to my semester in Montpellier I was excited to have a break from classes and something fun to do! One of my friends from home who is also studying abroad in Europe this semester was in Montpellier for the past few days. It was so much fun to be able to show her around the city and to my favorite places! I loved getting to feel like a tourist again and just walking around with her. Here are some pictures I took on our adventures!